It sounds impossible that the same man could be a much trusted friend and confidante to both US Presidents and the Chinese Communist leadership over the past few decades, but there was such a man. His name was Lee Kuan Yew. He just passed away at the age of 91.
Born a subject of the British empire, he saw the white man retreat in haste when the Japanese invaded. A Japanese soldier made him kneel before him, after which he kicked Lee away. He barely escaped being shot by the Japanese. He was happy to see the back of them, but when the British came back as colonial rulers,that no longer made sense to him.
“… the old mechanisms had gone and the old habits of obedience and respect (for the British) had also gone because people had seen them run away (from the Japanese) … they packed up.
Newly independent Malaysia once included Singapore in it, but the Malaysians expelled Singapore in 1965, largely because it had too many Chinese. Lee was the city state’s Prime Minister from 1959 to 1990.
At the beginning of his rule Singapore was one of the world’s poor nations, at the end of it, it was one of the world’s rich nations. This is not an accident.
He was a really tough guy, partially because he had to be. He outsmarted and outmaneuvered the Communists in his country. He had zero tolerance for any ethnic or religious troublemaking in a complicated small nation of ethnic Chinese, Malays, Indians, Buddhists, Muslims and Christians.
He suppressed the press, no question about it.
But he guided the rise of a now wealthy city state that works really well, one that its people are very proud of.
Singapore has long welcomed foreign investment. It treats them well, so foreign companies stay and invest more.
Singapore’s GDP per capita is much higher than that of the US. Germany or Japan. It’s schools, public transit, airport, roads are among the best in the world. The crime is almost too low to measure. ( Gun ownership is all but unknown.) By all accounts, corruption is very low.
Deng Xiaoping of China essentially stole Lee’s playbook – economic liberalization in an authoritarian political state. After which, much of China got rich.
Lee welcomed the rise of China, but also encouraged the US to maintain a strong military presence in east Asia.
This was a deeply pragmatic man, who like many great men, doesn’t fit into any mold. He was sincerely socialist, capitalist, pro Chinese, pro American at the same time. He, like Deng, didn’t care if the cat was black or white, so long as it caught the mice.
In the above video, from 1967, he is interviewed on American national TV. He tries to counsel America to see where it has gone so incredibly wrong in the then raging Vietnam war. He resists attempts to send any of his troops into Vietnam.
He met LBJ around the time of this interview, but I doubt that he was listened to, the way that Nixon, and Deng listened very closely to him.